Kailash Satyarthi: Child labour bill will bring little change

Pratik Kumar
The Asian Age

Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi on Thursday expressed his apprehensions over excluding children engaged in “home-based work” from ambit of the amended Child Labour Bill and said it will change very little on the ground.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Child Labour Bill on Tuesday, bringing in a number of changes to the law from 1986. Criticising the amended law, he said the government is stuck to its old rhetoric. Mr Satyarthi was referring to the Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya’s argument that family-run businesses do not involve “employer-employee” relationship – therefore, making it less exploitative.

“When the law of 1986 was debated, the (then) minister had an argument: ‘due to socio-economic realities, we can’t ban child labour’. The same rhetoric is being used after 30 years,” Mr Satyarthi told this newspaper. “My question to all those who say that they worked as child labourers 50 years ago: Do they want to say that in half a century, India hasn’t progressed? Is the economy and society the same,” he said.

Defending the exemption given to children below 14 years in cases of family enterprises in the Child Labour Bill, Mr Dattatreya in the Rajya Sabha had recalled how, as a child, he helped his mother sell onion after school hours.

Sixty per cent of the India’s child labourers work in the agriculture sector, while the rest work for various unorganised sectors, Mr Satyarthi said. According to the International Labour Organisation, India is home to 5.7 million child workers aged between 5 and 17.

The law in its current form gives more relaxation to use children in family enterprises, Mr Satyarthi said.